- Adventurous styling
- Well-dressed and priced accordingly
- Excellent level of standard safety features across the range
- Engine suitably tailored for urban use but not a lot in reserve
Toyota has finally entered the world of urban-focused compact SUVs with the C-HR. Toyota is not a company renowned for adventurous styling, but C-HR makes a bold statement, and the bodylines, angles and exaggerated shapes of the so-called diamond architecture theme look better in the metal than photos might suggest.
Add to this a vibrant colour palette, Toyota Link connectivity via your phone and more than 60 accessories to personalise your C-HR and it’s obvious Toyota is targeting the young and young-at-heart.
According to Toyota, development of the C-HR – it stands for Coupe High Rider – was delayed so it could be built on its Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform, which offers a lot more in terms of design and ability.
The “hidden” rear door handles are a nice touch, but in some respects style has taken precedence over function. The sloping roofline and upwardly sweeping waistline reduce the side window size, cause blind spots and create an enclosed feel for those in the back. Interior space is similar to a Corolla, comfortably accommodating four adults (five at a squeeze) and there is useful luggage space.
The main focus, therefore, is on front-seat occupants. Comfortably sculptured seats provide a sound foundation for what is a clear and easy-to-use layout for the driver. There’s a sense of quality to the wrap-around dashboard, soft-touch surfaces and attention to detail in the fit and finish. Long-travel front seat adjustment allows some compromise to deal with otherwise modest leg room in the rear, making it acceptable for a small SUV. Likewise, head room is not generous but better than expected. Split-fold rear seat adds versatility to the load carrying.
The five-variant line-up has two equipment grades and the choice of two-wheel-drive or an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. All models are powered by a sophisticated 1.2-litre turbo-charged direct-injected petrol engine.
Toyota has equipped C-HR to be one of the more premium models in the compact SUV category and priced it accordingly, although it’s still deemed affordable in a competitive market for these types of vehicle. It starts at $26,990 plus on-road costs for the base spec, six-speed manual front-wheel-drive model. This is the only manual version available, and while Toyota is trumpeting it as the one for the driving enthusiast, it’s only expected to account for five per cent of sales. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is $2000 more and it’s a further $2000 for all-wheel drive. The higher-grade Koba models, available in two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, are $4300 over their respective base grade siblings, making the range-topping Koba AWD automatic a relatively expensive $35,290 plus ORC.
The base-model two-wheel-drive automatic we tested comes well equipped for its position in the line-up. Desirable features include satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lamps, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, hill-start assist control and 17-inch alloy wheels. Stepping up to the Koba adds leather-
accented seats, keyless entry and ignition, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps and an innovative system that moisturises cabin air.
Excellent safety features
It’s the excellent suite of advanced safety features, standard across the range, that sets C-HR apart from the majority of models in this class. All variants have seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist and auto high beam. On most other brands these advanced safety features are usually extra-cost options, if available at all. Interestingly, C-HR also has trailer sway control across the range. This is a feature usually found on vehicles with heavy-duty towing capabilities, not the likes of C-HR, which has a maximum towing capacity of a mere 600kg for the auto, and a slightly more respectable 1100kg for the manual model.
The 1.2-litre turbo-charged petrol engine, a newcomer to the Australian market, provides the easy-going drivability sought for everyday use around town. Acceleration times, however, are fairly leisurely and it doesn’t have a lot in reserve for passing. With a maximum output of 85kW, the engine is down on power compared with many of its competitors, but in typical turbo fashion a broad spread of strong low to mid-range torque saves the day to some extent. All models have three selectable drive modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – that vary throttle response, steering weight and CVT operation. The CVT has a manual mode with seven-step simulated gears but misses out on the convenience of paddle shift operation.
Hard work on hills
Our two-wheel-drive auto was only really found wanting on steep hills or when rapid acceleration was needed for comfortable overtaking. Working hard on hills, the otherwise smooth and quiet engine gets a touch raucous, while the characteristic CVT whine is a little more noticeable. Official ADR fuel consumption, on 95 RON petrol, is a respectable 6.3L/100km whereas we achieved only 8.0L/100km on our test week.
The TNGA platform provides a solid foundation for the suspension, which utilises MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones at the rear, while the engine is positioned in a way that keeps the centre of gravity low for less body roll and better balance. It appears the delay in development has been worth the wait, as the C-HR’s ride was impressive on good roads, but it showed its firmness on second-class roads where the ride started to become choppy. The handling provided a securely planted feel and sure-footed cornering. The light steering has a little more road feel in Sport mode but there is no pretence of sports car handling.
We also drove the Koba model with the on-demand all-wheel-drive system which primarily powers the front wheels, then as needed, proportionally transfers drive to the rear, up to a 50-50 split. In normal driving conditions there is not a great deal of difference in the driving feel, but on loose gravel or wet, slippery roads the extra traction is appreciated.
C-HR is the first Toyota to specify annual services rather than six-monthly service intervals. Each service is $195, with the price capped for five years.
Toyota’s C-HR has joined the class leaders in the compact SUV category. It has a youthful, vibrant image created by flamboyant styling, while the interior presentation and standard equipment, particularly the safety features, are at premium levels for this class. In a few areas, however, fashion has overridden function with a very enclosed feel for rear seat occupants. Likewise the on-road ability is suited to everyday use around town and leisurely highway cruising but falls away when asked to do a bit more.